Diakonia Closing In On Goal

BERLIN – The Diakonia homeless shelter in West Ocean City was in danger of closing its doors this month, and still needs help, but a timely check from the County Commissioners and community donations have put the shelter on less shaky ground for the moment.

“It’s very, very, very exciting. We’re well on our way to keeping our doors open,” Diakonia Director Claudia Nagle said yesterday.

In March, Nagle appeared before the County Commissioners with a plea for $65,000 to tide the shelter over until the new fiscal year. Without help, the shelter would have had to close in April, until the new budget year in July.

With a contribution of $30,000 from the County Commissioners and an outpouring of support, large and small, from individuals, Diakonia has been able to continue its work for the time being.

“We still have a number of really exciting events coming up,” Nagle said.

Several fundraisers will benefit Diakonia in the next month. Nagle is particularly excited by the “Art with a Heart” night at Seacrets on April 24. The event is the annual Art League of Ocean City celebration, with part of the proceeds to go to the homeless shelter.

On April 27, Temple Bat Yam will hold a car wash at Wal-Mart benefiting Diakonia as part of its Mitzvah Day, wherein the temple congregation perform works of charity and kindness.

On May 10, the grand opening of Marlin Market at the corner of Route 611 and Sunset Ave. will benefit Diakonia, with all proceeds directed to the shelter, Nagle said.

Individuals have been giving what they can, Nagle said, describing one donation in five- and one-dollar bills. “You know that’s somebody’s tips,” she said.

Larger donations have had a way of appearing in the past when Diakonia was at a low financial point. This year, that has not happened, but donations continue to be made.

“It’s little and big and in between,” Nagle said. “It’s so heartwarming and so much appreciated.”

Diakonia is also selling Pins by Lucinda, pins in the shape of houses, all different, made by a formerly homeless woman, for $15.

“Now this is her business. She had a place like Diakonia that was able to give her an opportunity,” Nagle said. “They have a history of someone who had a housing crisis and show what people can do with an opportunity.”

The artist began making the pins while homeless and selling them to benefit the shelter she was staying in.

While the crisis at Diakonia has been greatly alleviated, the future of the shelter is still uncertain.

“We’re bracing for what’s going to happen next funding year as well,” Nagle said. “It’s not going to be a bright picture.”

One annual donation that the shelter depends on to pay a large part of its winter utility bills will not be forthcoming next year, Diakonia has already learned.

Nagle plans to attend the annual public hearing on the Worcester County budget on May 6 to once again plead her case. The commissioners told Diakonia to go out and raise some money itself, and Nagle wants them to see that the shelter has done just that.

That does not change the shelter’s need for greater funding than it has ever received from Worcester County. Diakonia has asked for $100,000 from the county in past budgets, but has not been allocated more than $20,000.

Nagle has also approached the town of Ocean City, who looked favorably on her request, she said.

“It’s sort of like holding your breath to see how it’s all going to unfold,” Nagle said.